Nobody knows their way around a men’s shirt quite like Bronwynne Jones. After acquiring them, she unpicks them and turns them into something brand new. Spurred to create clothes that suited her tricky to buy for body shape, her aptly named label Thunder Thighs is now helping many other women enjoy clothes that fit and flatter their bodies.
We caught up with Bronwynne to find out more about her journey into fashion, why sustainability is important to her and what’s next for Thunder Thighs.
Leiden: What made you decide to start your label Thunder Thighs?
Bronwynne: Like many women I’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to find fashion that fitted well. It was near impossible so for years I wore clothing that wasn’t a perfect fit for my pear shape. It didn’t feel good. The clothes made me feel there was something wrong with my shape. I started to create for myself, which meant I could work with the latest trends but alter them to suit my body shape. Having reached an age where I have some freedom, I decided to start my own fashion label.
L: How has your own relationship with fashion changed since you started the label?
B: Ironically it’s made me less concerned with trends. I embrace my shape. I’m much more comfortable in my clothes now, particularly as I wear my own label!
I no longer waste energy searching for fashion that’s not going to fit anyway or look good on my shape. I no longer waste money buying garments I only wear once. I no longer spend my day tugging and adjusting my clothing. I’m happier in my own skin and free to just live life.
L: What does sustainable design mean to you?
B: It means conscious buying — knowing what you’re buying and where it comes from. It means buying well and buying less. It means buying clothing that fits and flatters your shape so you wear pieces often and for a long time. It means buying clothing that has a minimum impact on the environment in its manufacture and disposal. It means supporting local makers to keep skills and an Australian industry.
For my label, sustainable means using new fabric that is long lasting and with a high content of natural fibres as much as possible. It also means using recovered fabric and roll ends and remnants that would otherwise end up in landfill. Just this morning I picked up a bag of ties that were destined for landfill simply because they were dirty.
L: Where do you source the pieces that you work with?
B: I hunt and gather at op shops, markets and am often gifted pieces. I love reworking recovered clothing, giving it new life. These garments often have a softness and patina from use (being worn and washed many times) and can be found in colours and patterns unavailable on the roll.
L: You can work magic with men’s shirts. What made you decide to work with this item in particular?
B: It was a confluence of circumstances, as inspiration so often is. I had been working with ties for my other label Infinitie. Shirts became the next logical step. I began working with them by including fabric and shirt collars for jewellery and embellishment. I always kept the rest of the shirt, waiting for inspiration so as not to waste the fabric.
When I designed a shirt that had a swing back to skim over the thighs of the perfectly pear shaped, the light bulb went on. Why not make the swing back interesting by using fabric from the shirts? The Shirt Front Back Top was born.
L: How would you like to see the fashion industry change when it comes to waste and sustainability?
B: The key change is raising consciousness, on the part of designers, makers and consumers. I’ve been involved in environmental action since the 70s and know that things can change. I’m optimistic. There’s a lot of action on the sustainability front — greater awareness of the environmental cost of producing, using and disposing of fibres, developing natural fabrics that require less water and herbicides, taking more care with toxic chemicals and being mindful of the impacts on people and environments, especially in developing countries where most clothing is manufactured.
There’s also cutting-edge technological developments and emerging fibre technologies that are creating better, longer lasting fabrics and separating and recovering old fabrics to form new raw materials. The future of fabric is exciting.
We’re also seeing culture around clothing change, with the slow clothing movement, circular economy, fabric recovery and capsule wardrobes. I see a future where we live in our clothes not for our clothes.
L: Do you have any tips for consumers wanting to make a difference?
B: It may be strange as designer to say buy less, but buy less. Buy quality garments that you love and wear them till they fall apart. Buy garments that enable you to live your life rather than garments that dominate your life.
Think of your wardrobe as a whole. Only add a piece or two each season. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit perfectly or look amazing. Find designers whose style you love and whose clothes fit your shape and lifestyle. Support them so they’ll be there for you. And don’t shy away from second hand. Use your creativity or work with a designer to use theirs.
L: How would you like to see your label grow from here?
B: I want the label to be ‘out there’ more. Participating for the first time in FASHFEST last year was amazing and the exposure was incredible. In December I hope to be back on the runway, loving the idea of showcasing in a cultural institution. FASHFEST is good for Canberra. I love that we have our own major fashion event and want to keep it going.
Currently, I’m working on a DESIGN Canberra exhibition called ‘Curvature couture: Design and the pear-shaped woman’ which opens at M16 Gallery, where I have my studio, at 6pm, Thursday 8 November.
Long term, I’m determined to take my label even further along the sustainability path. I want to stay producing locally or at least in Australia to keep skills here and support Australian workers. Cost is a factor, but less so if you’re producing quality, well made, long-lasting garments that fit. Clothing should be an investment in your image and your lifestyle.
Every body deserves clothes that fit and make the wearer owner feel good. I hope Thunder Thighs will be seen as one part of the movement that creates a more diverse clothing industry.
Curvature couture: Design and the pear-shaped woman
6pm, Thursday 8 November